Many search engine optimisers love to throw in a 301 redirect when an opportunity presents itself. But is that the best practice for your SEO and site’s performance?
What is a redirect?
You’re driving along and the road you usually use has been closed, forever! However, there is a new road and the diversion takes you to it.
This is essentially what a redirect is. A redirect is something which can send both users and search engines to a different URL from the originally requested one.
The three typical redirects are 301, 302 and meta refresh.
We’re focussing on 301 redirects today.
A 301 redirect is a permanent redirect. It is thought that a 301 redirect will pass on 90-99% of link authority to the new redirected page (according to Moz). 301s are typically the best method for adding redirects on a website.
A 301 redirect is a preferable option for both users and search engines. It essentially gives the command to browsers and search engines that by attempting to visit ‘Page A’ they will be redirected to ‘Page B’.
SEO Best Practice
As I said, SEOs love a 301 redirect. Typical examples being when they want to change the URL to something that users can read and understand or complete a large website and URL restructure.
There has been a relatively recent rule change on 3xx redirects. The old rules meant that a 301 would results in 15% PageRank being lost whilst a 302 resulted in 100% PageRank loss. Now though, neither have a negative impact on PageRank.
‘Let’s redirect every single page that exists on our website,’ I hear you shout. There are still many potential issues surrounding redirects. Especially 301s.
Redirects could result in traffic decline
Any redirect carries a slight risk. If you redirect ‘URL A’ to ‘URL B’ and the only change is the URL itself (content remains pretty much the same), then you can more or less guarantee there will be no PageRank deterioration.
Should you decide to redirect from your informative page covering the Teletubbies and link to another page about Noddy, then you can expect your page to dwindle down the rankings and lose all its authority.
301 redirects can cause more harm than good
Too many redirects can harm your website. If you’re regularly altering your website’s link structure and creating several 301 redirects, you could end up creating an infinite redirect loop. A redirect loop is when ‘Page A’ points to ‘Page B’ and ‘Page B’ points back to ‘Page A’. I think you’ll agree, Jackie Chan perfectly sums up your users’ facial expression should this occur!
The problem is, it’s easily done. Especially if you’re website is large and is always undergoing change.
Redirect looping is seen by Google as a spam tactic. If it occurs, your site will be penalised by Google.
Not every page deserves a redirect
If the old page has great link juice behind it and it attracts a great deal of traffic, then it would be a good idea to pass that page’s authority onto your new page with a 301 redirect. But in terms of a rarely seen page or an archaic page which no longer serves any real relevance, it’s okay to let it 404 and drop from Google’s index.
In an ideal world, the URLs on our website are there to stay. Redirects should be the last resort and should only be created should it be absolutely necessary.
People should take more time in forming their website and URL structure. Why not plan out your hierarchy before even getting down to the nitty gritty of designing and developing your website?
Many people are too focussed on SEO ‘best practice’ nowadays when it comes to URLs. Don’t forget site experience and performance too – they aid your SEO just as much, if not more!
301 redirects – are they the best solution for your website? Not always.
Unfortunately, each redirect situation differs. If the redirect is absolutely necessary and beneficial to your users and website, then do it.
A better solution when redirecting may be to not redirect at all. Let an old page die out. Especially if it has little or no value to your users or your website’s meaning.